Thanksgiving Day was once the highlight of Thanksgiving week, but Black Friday shopping has steadily contaminated a day when Americans are supposed to show thanks for everything they have in their lives. Today, a foreign observer of Black Friday and Cyber Monday would presume Thanksgiving is nothing more than a banquet kicking off a month-long celebration of gluttony. Indeed, the meaning of Thanksgiving has been so perverted that it has become a day when Americans are preoccupied with their plans to buy more and more trinkets as soon as the doors open at the nearest mall.
Most Americans might not like the idea that stores started opening on Thanksgiving a few years ago, but the prospective of saving a little extra on Christmas gifts is too much of a temptation. Even if American consumers hate Thanksgiving shopping, American retailers know exactly what to say and do to get Americans, who are addicted to spending, out in force. America is, after all, a country of overconsumption for a reason. Like drug addiction, this preoccupation with overconsumption is psychologically unhealthy.
All people are motivated by economical, i.e. the pursuit of self-interests including financial interests, social, and emotional incentives. Before an individual acts, he, or she, will respond to any given situation in terms of one or more of these three modes of motivation. A healthy individual will ideally be able to use all three modes to process information and make decisions to pursue the most advantageous outcomes.
On the other hand, an unhealthy person, or someone in an unhealthy situation, will be motivated by incentives that do not fulfill the person’s economical, social, or emotional needs. For example, decisions regarding relationships should be made to fulfill emotional needs and sustainable attractions; however, society has a long history of encouraging marriage as a means of solidifying social standing while modern thinking has too often turned marriage into an economic arrangement where the contract is dissolved when economic factors no longer serve one or both individuals.
Because the US economy has transformed the American people into a largely transient culture, holiday traditions, which revolve around the family, are ways of fulfilling the neglected social and emotional needs all people have. Facebook and other social media platforms might help supplement our human needs throughout the year, but people must be able to physically and mentally engagement their families and communities in order to fulfill their social and emotional needs.
When it comes to overconsumption, especially during the Holidays, the incentives are clearly economic in nature. Events during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are centered on family and close friends, so healthy people best respond to social and emotional incentives during these times. Although purchasing gifts for family and friends is the central theme of after-Thanksgiving shopping, all the incentives are solely economic in nature. Because people are bombarded by economic incentives to the point the emotional and social incentives of the Holidays are overwhelmed, they are not able to fulfill their emotional and social needs during the Holiday Season.
A lot of the problem is that Americans have successfully been indoctrinated to believe people "act" as purely economic beings, i.e. rationale actors, so we treat each other as nothing more than rational consumers. In turn, American consumers feed this dynamic by indulging in consumerism and overconsumption during the Holiday to the point they can longer experience the holidays as emotional and social creatures. The Holidays become a stressful, unhealthy time of the year, because it is about fulfilling ever-growing economic expectations in circumstances that dictate emotional and social engagement.
Corporations are owned and operated in such a way that they "act" as purely economic beings. Business leaders and economists tend to treat all actors, e.g. people, governments, businesses, etc, in the same way they treat these sociopathic actors. When the behavior of people does not fit in this modeling, they try to rationalize why the apparent irrational behavior is rational, sometimes by developing ungodly complicated models, instead of recalibrating their basic models to include emotional and social aspects of human behavior. In other words, they are trying to ascribe what is explained by abnormal psychology to the whole of society. As such, those who are pressured to act in ways that are “economically rational” face unhealthy stress.
Consequently, America’s preoccupation with economic interests, especially over the Thanksgiving and Christmas Seasons, represents a lack of balanced. By over-saturating the Holidays with economic incentives, the strong social and emotional incentives present during the Holiday Season are overwhelmed to the point people cannot fulfill their social and emotional needs. Unless someone is a sociopath, who solely responds to economic incentives, the overwhelming pressure to spend deprives people of what they need to be psychotically healthy. It is no wonder the Holidays stress, irritate, and psychologically exhaust people.
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